Rebellion, Accents and Sword Fights

Q & A: Chris Masullo


Published: October 30, 2008

The Fordham theatre department’s adaptation of “The Rover,” which ran on the Mainstage Oct. 16-25, is a saucy and funny version of Aphra Behn’s original play. The Fordham version of the play takes place during Carnivale in 19th-century Naples. Two sisters, Hellena and Florinda, are unhappy with their fates. Hellena must become a nun and Florinda has been promised to a man that she doesn’t love. But she is in love with Belville, an American sea colonel on leave. Hellena, Florinda and their cousin dress as gypsies to go to Carnivale, and when Belville and his companions at sea arrive, including the troublemaker Willmore, a.k.a “the rover,” things go astray since everyone is in costume or wearing a mask. Throughout the play, Belville will stop at almost nothing to be reunited with Florinda, including swordfights and imprisonment.

Performance major Chris Masullo, FCLC ’09, who plays the role of Belville, has starred in many other Fordham Mainstage shows including “The Government Inspector,” “The Busybody,” “Pericles” and “21 Positions.” He spoke with The Observer about his role in “The Rover.”

Observer: In the current Mainstage production of “The Rover,” you play the role of Belville, an American colonel in search of his love, Florinda. What do you think about the character of Belville?

Chris Masullo: Well, first off—our production decided early on to have some fun and take some liberties with the nationalities. The Americans were in fact British on the page, the British were Italian, etc. We got a laugh out of playing with it at the table, so it endured. Belville ideally serves as a sturdy balance to Willmore’s antics. I find it fun to play the straight man for some reason.

Observer: How did you prepare for your role in “The Rover”?

CM: I researched what I could about the spirit of European Carnivale as that setting is very important to the energy of the play.

Observer: The stage combat and choreography were fun to look at. What was it like learning and performing them?

CM: I’m definitely a very slow learner when it comes to those things, but luckily, folks were patient. The dance was introduced during tech. We had names for our retro steps. “The James Franco” was a favorite.

Observer: Even though “The Rover” was written in the 1600s, there are still a lot of aspects about it that are found in modern times, such as sexual tension and rebellion.  Would you say the themes in “The Rover” are similar to the ones in modern times?

CM: Yeah, I think sexual tension and rebellion, in this case for the cause of sexual tension, are about as timeless as it gets. If modern audiences are able to respond or be amused by a play like this, it is because they see themselves clearly, despite the wigs and costumes. Theatre professor Morgan Jenness recently commented in [theater history] class on how Restoration comedies such as “The Rover” are unique because of their depictions and practices of excess, both carnal and financial. I think the digital world can identify.

Observer: Why do you think people would enjoy this production of “The Rover”?  What is your favorite element of “The Rover”?

CM: Underneath the surface, it’s really not a far cry from an epic episode of “Gossip Girl”: young people with strong senses of entitlement, that don’t appear to have jobs, behaving very badly. And let’s not lie, “Gossip Girl” is fun stuff.